A team of scientists from Shanghai has successfully beat the record for quantum entanglement. They beamed the entangled photons from 300 miles above Earth to separate places 750 miles apart.
The achievement is deemed a breakthrough in the ever-fascinating future of quantum communications. And the Chinese are eyeing an urgent practical application: tackling cyberattacks.
Quantum Entanglement In Focus
In quantum entanglement, two or more particles derived from the same source are correlated and described in terms of one another, never mind that they are separated spatially. Anything done on one of the objects may instantaneously affect the others entangled with it.
The concept, dubbed by Albert Einstein as a “spooky action at a distance,” is still wrapped in mystery.
The team from the University of Science and Technology of China successfully replicated the phenomenon and even exceeded the current record of 86 miles, scientists remain uncertain how the process occurs or how an object knows what its partner/s are doing.
The state of either object, Newsweek explained, cannot be determined until measured, and this act of measuring is what determines its state. The measurement of one object affects the measurement of the other.
For instance, if one splits photo A into photon pair B and C, measuring B will dictate the measure of C. According to an analogy from physicist C. Paul Kwiat, if a flipped coin yields heads, heads, tails, heads, tails, tails, head, then the “entangled” coin positioned some miles away would result in the same sequence.
“That’s not a behavior you see with coins,” he said, adding that this is where the concept of quantum entanglement, or two things separated hundreds of miles away behaving as one, actually gets weird.
Quantum entanglement prompts philosophical discussions around quantum theory. Quantum mechanics, for instance, observes correlations that “reject the principle of local realism,” which poses that information on the state of a system is only mediated by interactions in immediate surroundings.
Cybersecurity And Other Applications
Despite its general weirdness, quantum entanglement maintains a number of uses in computing as well as information sharing. Internet connections, for instance, remain vulnerable to online attacks, so quantum communication proves promising in forging faster, more secure communication channels.
Splitting a single photon into two linked ones, called entanglement distribution, could help create a secure internet connection. The technology of quantum cryptography, as it’s called, lets users spot any intruder on the channel, who would actually change the entangled photons through his presence.
This channel is “unhackable,” according to physicist Jonathan Dowling, broaching China’s plans to roll out this form of communications around the country. Regardless how one tries to string together so many NSA computers, one wouldn’t be able to penetrate the system, he explained.
This could lead to a future where computers of the world are interlinked in an impenetrable network “of extraordinary computational power,” Dowling said, citing the satellite as the potential first link in that quantum internet.
Note, however, that the Chinese are not the only ones aspiring to be at the forefront of the technology. Quantum cryptography systems are already researched and commercially accessible in different countries such as the United States and Canada.